NASHUA – A hearing on a developer's plans to build multifamily housing at the site of St. Stanislaus Hall was postponed due to concern about the project's possible impact on nearby Boire Field.
Gerald Prunier, a lawyer for developer Vatche Manoukian, asked that the hearing scheduled for Tuesday before the Zoning Board of Adjustment be delayed until Sept 22. The delay is needed to give project engineer Richard Maynard time to provide the Federal Aviation Administration with information about the proposed housing project, Prunier said.
Failing to provide the FAA with the required information about the project's distance from the airport and the height of two proposed three-story building could result in "severe penalties'' against both the city and the developer, he said.
Manoukian, who has a history of tax delinquency, is seeking three permits from the zoning board to enable the development.
One permit is needed because the 4.13-acre site at 45 Pine Hill Road is zoned R-9, meaning only single-family homes can be built there on lots measuring at least 9,000 square feet.
The other two permits are required to allow two structures on a single lot and to exceed the maximum number of stories allowed. Two-and-a-half stories are permitted under city zoning laws; Manoukian wants to build two three-story buildings with a total of 52 housing units.
Royce Rankin, of the Nashua Airport Authority ,read the story about the proposed development in Tuesday's Telegraph, according to Prunier. In the story, Ward 1 Alderman Mark Cookson, who represents the Pine Hill Road area, said residents had expressed concern about the height of the proposed buildings interfering with aircraft landing at Boire Field.
Rankin contacted the FAA and then spoke with city zoning officials, who contacted Prunier and requested the hearing be postponed.
Rankin said Wednesday that because the proposed housing project would be built within 20,000 feet of the planned second runway, FAA approval is required. The new runway is scheduled for construction in 2011, he said.
Meanwhile, Cookson said he has received "an enormous amount of phone calls and e-mails about this, and no one is in favor of this proposal.''
Cookson said residents are concerned that Manoukian owes $31,000 in back taxes on the Pine Hill Road property and thousands more on others parcels in the city.
Residents are angry about the tax delinquency because of a city ordinance that prohibits any resident or corporation that owes back taxes from even being considered for city permits.
But City Treasurer David Fredette and Prunier said Manoukian has reached an agreement with the city for his bank to make monthly payments on the back taxes.
Under the deal, a building permit for the Pine Hill Road project would not be issued until the taxes are paid in full, Fredette said.
In addition, based on a opinion issued by former city attorney David Connell in 2006, the city legal department is now questioning the legality of the ordinance as it pertains to zoning permits.
City lawyers have told the Community Development Division to remove the back taxes provision from the application for zoning permits, according to Cookson.
Prunier said the ordinance is illegal; Cookson is not so sure.
"We either need to amend the ordinance, or have the zoning board, which is a quasi-judicial body, adhere to it as it is written,'' Cookson said.
"I think we need a judge who knows the legality to decide whether it will stand up.''
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This article appears in the July 17 2009 issue of New Hampshire Business Review